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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lesser known, but still a good set, September 3, 2007
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This review is from: Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 (Border Incident / His Kind of Woman / Lady in the Lake / On Dangerous Ground / The Racket) (DVD)
Genre is often hard to define. Even something as simple as the Western has its difficulties. Sure, The Searchers or Once Upon a Time in the West are Westerns, but what about Brokeback Mountain, which has the right setting, or Little House on the Prairie, which has both the setting and the standard time period? If the Western is hard to really set in stone, how much harder is it to define Film Noir, which may not even be a genre but more of a style?

The Film Noir Classic Collection Volume 3 provides five more examples of how the "noir" label can be applied to a wide range of movies. The first film in the set, Lady in the Lake, is also the most off-beat. An adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel with Philip Marlowe, this movie both stars and is directed by Robert Montgomery. What makes this movie unique is it is shot from Marlowe's perspective: only occasionally, such as when he looks in a mirror, do we get to see the character. It's a different approach, and after you get used to it, it even works.

Border Incident is the most topical of the five movies as it deals with illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico. Ricardo Montalban plays the Mexican undercover agent in a joint U.S./Mexico effort to stop a ring of crooks who smuggle in workers and then put them to work under slave-labor conditions. Those who cause trouble disappear.

The Racket is much more of a straight gangster film, with Robert Ryan as the vicious crime boss who doesn't like being part of the Syndicate (which he finds too polite in its criminality). Opposing him is Robert Mitchum as a police captain whose efforts to clean up the town have caused him career damage.

His Kind of Woman is my favorite of the five, with Mitchum as a gambler sent to Mexico as part of a scheme to get a deported gangster (played by Raymond Burr) back into the country. While waiting at a resort, Mitchum befriends the locals, including Jane Russell (who he wants to be more than friends with). What's merely a decent movie becomes highly entertaining in the second half when Vincent Price steals the show as a hammy actor who assists Mitchum with a truly Shakespearean flare.

On Dangerous Ground has Robert Ryan as a brutal, cynical cop who is forced to leave the city to help find a child killer in the snow-covered mountains. Out of his environment, he is forced to rediscover his humanity when he meets the blind Ida Lupino, who is the sister of the killer.

How much any of these movies fit into the film noir category will vary from person to person. Certainly, the strongest argument can be made for the last two movies, with their more complicated characters. To help the viewer make his own determination, this set also includes a nice documentary on film noir; this final disc also includes five of MGMs "Crime Doesn't Pay" shorts. Four of these are so-so, the preachy sort of short subjects that would often lead off a Mystery Science Theater. The best in the bunch - and also the most noirish - is The Luckiest Guy in the World, an ironic tale of a man driven to crime out of desperation.

Each film comes with some nice commentary. Overall, the films rate four stars on average, with some better, some worse (I personally rank them, best to worst, as His Kind of Woman, On Dangerous Ground, Border Incident, Lady in the Lake and The Racket). With all the bonuses, I am pushing my rating up to five stars. These are not the most well-known movies, but if you are a fan of film noir (whatever it is), this is a set worth picking up.
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